Arthur shifted the weight of the pack on his back and took another look around. He wasn't worried he'd get lost; he knew the way to Camelot. Because why wouldn't he know the way to the place that was responsible for ruining his life? Even if, by some improbable chance, he ended up going the wrong way, then he could simply ask directions in the first town he reached.
Towns grew up like wildflowers around Camelot; small, temporary, easily crushed things. The big city herself was the real jewel in this collection, Arthur had heard: he'd only been there once himself. And he hadn't actually been sightseeing; he'd been running for his life. That had been shortly before Uther had decided it was time to move their camp so they couldn't be found again.
Arthur hadn't thought he'd go back voluntarily.
But here he was, shoddy clothes patched for the trip, shoes keeping his feet warm, a pack hanging on his back with the necessities, and a dagger nearly unnoticeable in its sheath by his side and its hilt hidden beneath his jacket. Arthur wished he had his sword. He owned one, and he was good with it… But he'd had to leave it behind, for fear that a peasant with a sword might draw attention.
And Arthur didn't want to draw attention. If it was discovered he was a Mundane, he might not be killed or even necessarily branded, but if it was discovered who his father was, he certainly would be.
All around the dirt road that he ambled down, trees stood guard, tall and leafy. The sun was shining but not hot, and it was an overall lovely day. Arthur wasn't too nervous to appreciate it, either; something to be grateful for.
He noticed that he was beginning to get closer to the city. He passed by several peasants and two men on horseback, wearing Camelot's colors – blue and gold – and chainmail. Without thinking, Arthur turned his face away from the fighters, his heart rate going up.
Stop, Arthur, he thought to himself. They might be magic. They might be able to tell. He'd never heard of a magic user that could read minds, but his father had always told him that magic-users were evil and tricky.
Evil, he was still withholding judgment on. He hadn't met many. Tricky; he knew they were tricky.
But the men reminded him of times from his childhood. Made him think of staying in a camp too long, and of King Balinor's men searching it. Crouched in a corner, trying to make the hut look uninhabited, or hiding behind trees while the tent was torn down, with his father holding him like the wind was going to try and tear him away. His father's death grip had been just as terrifying as the search. Morgana had still been with them at that point, and Arthur could vividly remember her green eyes like the moon: round and glowing with tears.
Arthur shook the memory off as he continued down the road past the men (and if they could read his mind or feel his pulse, they didn't let on). The thought of Morgana had helped drag him back to reality.
Morgana hadn't been with them for more than a year. She'd walked down this very road into Camelot and hadn't come back out. Uther hadn't really gotten over that.
Camelot was looming over him now. The city was a splotch against the blue sky, with high walls blocking too much of his view into the inside. The castle could be seen, though, trying to crack open heaven with its high towers. Arthur stopped on the road, craning his neck up and smiling a little.
She was a beautiful city, that was for sure. Uther had made sure to tell him many times that she should be the Pendragons', and so Arthur felt a certain kinship with the alien city. He didn't mind that he wouldn't be king. (You couldn't really miss what you'd never had, could you?) But he did regret that he couldn't get to know the city before now.
That was how he would spend the day, then. Looking around, getting to know Camelot. He didn't really have a plan other than that which his father gave him: get in, get information, kill someone important, and return with the glory that the Mundanes needed to keep their spirits up. He was making the details up as he went along.
After a while more of silent walking spent enjoying nature's good mood, Arthur arrived at the gate of Camelot. He'd hoped to be washed in with a crowd of people, but he was the only one entering at the time—pity. Still, he held his head up like he was sure as anything and bold as brass and started on through.
"Hey, you," one of the guards on either side of the gate called, and Arthur found himself obliged to stop.
His heart thudded again, trying to run away, but he kept his face barely interested. "Is something wrong?" he asked.
"State your business," said the guard, but not like he was suspicious. He barely seemed to care.
Great, Arthur got a bored guard who just wanted an excuse to talk. "Just going to stay in Camelot for a while," he said, almost honestly. "Figured I could find work or something."
The man laughed. "Good luck with that. What do you do?"
Arthur smiled. He wasn't overly-friendly himself, but he figured he wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere special. As long as the guard didn't get suspicious. "Anything I need to," he replied.
The guard chuckled, but he spotted some more people to torment with pointless questions coming up the road behind Arthur, and waved for the muscular blond man to go into Camelot.
Arthur stepped inside and got his first glimpse of Camelot in a long while, and his first glance ever not rushing through it at breakneck speed.
His first impression was color and noise and chaos. Arthur looked around with wide eyes, looking like a bumpkin and not caring as sounds swept all around him and he tried to make sense of it all. The color came mostly from the people and the cloths and the banners of Camelot hanging off the castle rising above the houses. The noise and chaos were from the people rushing all around, and there were all shapes and sizes. Arthur spotted children and mothers, youth and elderly, those who looked honest, and those he decided to avoid right away.
He kept walking around, looking everywhere, thinking how odd it felt to be a welcome stranger in society for once. Was this was being legal felt like? No wonder Morgana found it so enticing.
A slight smile found its way to his lips as he walked. He nearly forgot why he was there in the first place as he enjoyed the social scenery. And this was just the lower town.
He would bet the castle was sumptuous. He'd have to make his way there anyway, eventually, so he decided just to enjoy this for now.
Arthur came to a halt at the call aimed at him, looking around at once for any danger. Then he looked down—and winced at what he had been about to step in.
Looking back up, he came face-to-face with a baby-faced man with watery blue eyes.
"Didn't think you'd seen that," said the stranger kindly. "Always a danger walking out into the middle of the street."
Arthur gave a short laugh. "I'm glad your eyes were open. Thanks."
"No problem," said the man, who had a sack of something slung over his shoulder and a large ring on one finger—an odd thing for a peasant to own.
"Need help?" Arthur asked.
"No, I got it," the man answered, to Arthur's relief. "New in town?"
"Yes, I'm Arthur," the blond introduced himself. "How did you know?" He held out a hand, but the stranger's hands were full and he couldn't shake.
"You have the look. I'm Gilli."
"Nice to meet you," Arthur said. "I guess you aren't new then?"
"Lived here most of my life. It's a great city. Friendly, welcoming…" Gilli swelled with pride over Camelot.
"No man left behind?" Arthur guessed with a laugh, hiding the bitterness he felt at Gilli's praises. Friendly? This was the town that had scarred his father and Leon.
Gilli nodded agreeably.
"Do you know where I might find an inn to spend the night?" Arthur asked him, sensing that Gilli was about to walk away.
"Rising Sun," Gilli answered immediately, pointing. "They'll probably have room open. Affordable, too. Do you have any money?"
"A little," Arthur said. "Hopefully it'll be enough. Thank you for the help."
"Anytime," said Gilli. "If you're moving in, I hope to see you again sometime." And then he smiled and trooped off, the bag of something heavy (potatoes, maybe?) still slung over his shoulder.
"You too!" Arthur called after him, and then continued walking—this time in the direction Gilli had pointed.
He went down several more streets before he caught sight of the Rising Sun. He might as well get a room for the night, or at least make sure one was open, before he went sightseeing around Camelot.
As he went down the street, he spotted two men lingering in an alley off to the side of the road, with ragged clothes. One of them had scars from an X branding peeking over his shirt, and they just generally looked dangerous. Arthur skirted to the other side of the street to avoid them, which he guessed was a popular action, since of the few people on the street, all were on the opposite side from the men.
He came walking up the road swiftly, as though he had somewhere to be, so the newcomer didn't see the men lingering. He was a pale man with dark hair and a lanky frame, and Arthur had the sudden urge to yell out and warn him.
But that would attract attention, which Arthur was trying not to do. So he remained silent—and as the dark-haired man passed by the alley, the two scary-looking men suddenly reached out and yanked him in.
Arthur froze in his tracks, his eyes going wide.
The man was pushed up against a wall, his own eyes open with surprise, and he opened his mouth as though to shout. But he was rudely interrupted by a fist to the stomach.
Arthur looked around. Didn't anyone else see this? No, no one was looking, and the whole scene was eerily silent. The blond looked back, momentarily torn. After all, he was here on a mission, not to save random magic-users from getting beaten up and robbed.
They were standing over their victim, who was trying to catch his breath, and starting to go through his clothes.
He rolled up his sleeves and barreled across the street with a sudden burst of speed, wondering if he would regret getting involved.
A/N: Review? That would be nice :)
I meant to not update until I had the whole story written out. But I just can't do that! I like to update as I write... Sorry about that.